Behold, a White Horse: Col. Wells' War Horse, Charlie

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
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"VETERAN OF THE LATE WAR. The horse which seved Colonel George D. Wells for more than three years of the late war was found ded in his stall on the morning of the 5th inst. He began his army life in the first Massachusetts regiment, of which his master was Lieutenant-Colonel. He received his first wound at Blackburn's Ford, in July, 1861. He passed through the siege of Yorktown, the battle of Williamsburg, the camp life in White Oak Swamp and the great retreat. In August 1862, he changed his regiment, Col. Wells taking command of the 34th. While in garrison at Fort Lyon Charlie learned the cavalry drill. He passed a year in skirmishing with the rebels in and near Harper's Ferry, where his master was post commander. Then came a year of hard marching and fighting upand down the Shenandoah valley, duringn which the regiment marched over a thousand miles,fought nine battles, besides numerous skirmishes, and lost 661 men and 88 officers.

[From J. Noyalas, private collection]
"Since Blackburn's Ford neither Charlie nor his master had received even a scratch, but on the 13th of October, 1864, in a reconnoissance near Cedar Creek, Col. Wells was killed. Charlie was not carrying him at the time, but was saddled and in the reserve. A few moments after his master was shot he was wounded in two places, and was brought back to Boston with a bullet in his hip by the officers who brought home his master's body.

"Under good care he recovered health and strength entirely, and for the last eighteen years has passed his life in great ease and comfort, petted and cared for as his faithful service deserved, and dear to the harts of many from his association with the loved memory of his gallant master. He has shared in almost all the gatherings of soldiers in the vicinity of Beverly, the home of his mistress, Colonel Wells. sister. Three weeks ago, when the soldiers' monument was dedicated, he was too feeble to join the procession, but he was equipped with his old army accoutrements and led to the corner of the street on which his stable stands. When the procession reached him it was halted and ranks broken that the men might renew their acquaintance with him. Even in his enfeebled condition he showed a glimmer of his old ardor when the familiar strains of the military bands reached his ear.

"He received honorable burial in the garden of his owner. He must have been one of the last survivors of the horses which served in the war. His age is not exactly known, but it must have exceeded thirty-four years.

"Charlie is a well-known character in both his regiments, his eccentricities making him interesting and amusing to the men; this little notice is written in the hope that it may come under the eyes of some of his comrades, and that they will give a kindly thought to the memory of 'the colonel's old gray."
[Boston Advertiser, Nov. 18, 1882]​

Jeff in Ohio

Oct 17, 2015
To me, Charlie had the ideal soldier's carreer. Three years of exciting and honorable service, followed by a long, comfortable, pampered retirement, and many shared memories with old comrades.

I only wish someone had expanded on Charlie's "interesting and amusing ... eccentricities."
Sometimes that's the language you use looking back at bad habits that you would dislike and punish if done in the present.

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
May 5, 2017
Very nice story. 34 is quite old for a horse, and if he had not been ”working” his muscle tone would likely not been good. So “feeble” is quite correct. He definitely would have remembered the music and the sound of soldiers marching. I am sure it warmed his heart. So glad he lived his final days with those who would give him love and care.